Kianka keeps bar steady for US #1 HJ


By Christopher Hunt

She didn’t want to celebrate early. A couple times already, she brushed the high jump a couple times earlier and she watched those bars shake until they dropped.

This time her hips cleared the bar and she hit mat. Hopewell Valley’s Emily Kianka rolled off the mat then looked back to see the bar still sitting there at her new personal best 5 feet, 11 inches at the Eastern States Championships Tuesday. She broke out in a short sprint and jumped in the air and covered her face with both hands and collapsed to floor. Her clearance is the best in the country this season.

“I’ve actually been really sick,” Kianka said. “I don’t know if I was still feeling weak but I knew that I needed that jump.”

Kianka was locked in a jumpoff with Lacey Shuma of Maryvale Prep. Both had missed three attempts at 5-10, having cleared all previous heights. In the jumpoff, Kianka and Shuma both cleared 5-10. Then Kianka cleared 5-11, the second best clearance by a high-schooler at the Armory ever.

“Obviously, I’ve been working for this since my freshman year,” she said. “I was really pumped. It’s mental for me. Five-Ten is my height where I’m not really sure if I’m going to clear it. But now that I’ve cleared 5-11, I know I should be able to make it.”

Bayside senior Alaine Tate enjoyed a breakthrough of her own in the 800 meters. Tate has always been on the outskirts of the group of high-profile runners in the state and mostly known for her habit of setting a blistering pace early. But this time, when Tate bolted to the front, she never let the field back in the race.

Tate finished in 2:11.16, a four-second personal best and the second fastest time in country this season.

“I just wanted to keep my knees up and on the third lap I didn’t want to die,” she said. “I felt a girl come up on me on the third lap so I wanted to keep it going.”

In truth, Tate held about a 30-meter lead by the third lap and might have been racing her own shadow. Normally it would be the time in the race when Tate would faded back into the chase pack but she continued to pull away.

“I feel like I’ve overcome a big hurdles,” Tate said. “My coach always tells me that I’m not as strong as I think I am. It’s about heart and she says she can’t give me that. I ran with my heart.”

Tate, who has committed to Hampton University, displayed her fitness again 20 meters later when she returned for finish second in the mile in 5:08.84. But her performance in the 800 is what will garner some attention as the national meets approach in three weeks.

“When I used to her the big names come out like Phyllis (Francis) and Emily (Lipari) and Claudia (Francis) last year, I used to get intimated,” Tate said. “Now I’m excited because I know I can run with them.”

English Gardner of Eastern won the girls 55 in 6.91, a personal best and the second-fastest time in the country this season. Gardner seemed out of the race as the field careened toward the finish. But Gardner scurried past Paramus Catholic’s Myasia Jacobs, who placed second in 6.93. Colonie sophomore Kyle Plante won the 200 in 24.25 with a fantastic start that never gave the field a chance to catch up.

Whitney Fountain of Columbus, who leads the country in the 200 (23.60), was the top qualifier headed into the final after running 24.03 in the trial heats. But Fountain felt pain in her right calf during the race. Then felt pain in her right hamstring on a run-out before she took the start line in the final. She walked off the track before the race, hoping not to aggravate the pain further.

Fountain, who is committed to Clemson, will race in Jamaica this Saturday at the Gibson Relays.

Cornwall’s Aisling Cuffe dominated the 2 mile 10:28.20, more than 30 seconds ahead of the next finisher. She lapped the entire field. Cuffe said that was looking to break 10:20 and “expected more.”

South Carolina-bound Amber Allen of Passaic Tech led off Seneca’s Michelle Brown in the 400, finishing 55.55, the fourth-fastest time in the nation this season. Brown finished in 55.74.

“I knew I had to race Michelle,” Allen said. “I knew it was going to be a good race because she doesn’t back down at the end of the race and I don’t back down either.”

Allen said she could feel Brown making her move coming off the last turn. Allen and Brown talked about running sub-55 before the race and knew it would come down to the last 50 meters if they were going to have a chance.

“I was ready for it,” Allen said. “I saved a little bit for it. The first lap I wanted to get out hard but I didn’t want to go too hard because I knew I was going to need some extra at the end. “

Lenape’s Natalia Ocasio (3:35.0), Carmen Delph (60.2), Amanda Restivo (2:21.0), Caitlin Orr (5:02.6) won the distance medley in 11:58.92, the third-fastest in the country.

“We wanted to get into nationals with a time under-12:00 and to get a time and let people know that we’re serious,” said Orr, a senior. “We got out there by ourselves and then we felt like we already had the win so we might as well go after a time.”


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